Wednesday, 16th March 2022
with Ed Husic MP & Labor Candidate for Dickson Ali France
SUBJECTS: Visit to Brendale; Labor’s Buy Australia plan; a Better Future for Australia; manufacturing; need to make more things here; passing of Senator Kimberley Kitching; cost of living; Labor’s policy agenda; Federal election; wages; floods affecting the East Coast; weight loss.
ALI FRANCE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DICKSON: Good morning, everyone. Thank you all so much for coming here to Brendale, in Dickson, to have a look at this amazing, award-winning, family-owned business Solar Bollard Lighting. Thank you, also, to our Leader, Anthony Albanese, for taking the time to be here today, our Shadow Industry Minister, Ed Husic, to Senator Anthony Chisholm, and of course, to Mike Arieni. This is his business. Thank you so much for showing us around today, Mike. This company here is a world leader in solar lighting. It exports to over 40 countries across the world. And it's based right here in Brendale. Yesterday, we were here and there are a couple of pallet loads of lighting that were going off to Guam, to a Guam military base. This company also provides lighting for the United States Navy and Air Force, to mining companies across the world, and even to Disneyland, I think. There's a long list of places where these lights belong. What I want to say is that this company is proudly Australian-made. And I hope that it's one of many local businesses that will benefit from Labor's Buy Australian Made policy. Mike is a very, very, very passionate innovator. And one of the things I absolutely love about this business is that they're very determined to grow their business here in Brendale. They're very determined to support other local businesses, but also to keep jobs here, right here in Dickson. So, I'm really grateful that you've all had the opportunity to see this amazing local business. And I'm now going to hand over to our Leader, Albo.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Ali. It's good to be back in Dickson. This is my third visit to Queensland in the last week. And it's always good to be here. Because Queensland can lead the nation in taking advantage of the opportunities that are there, if we seize it. But we can't sit back and be complacent. We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic. And one of the lessons is that we don't make enough things here. Australia has the smarts to make things here, if we only commercialise the innovation that's occurred. And Mike's business here is a great example of that. Producing high-quality product and exporting it to the world. Imagine how good we could be if we had a National Reconstruction Fund with a Buy Australia plan to support high-value Australian manufacturing. The products that go in here are, by-and-large, made in Australia, except for lithium batteries. Why is it? We got a bit of lithium here. Why is it we're not making more things here like lithium batteries? There is incredible opportunity here if we seize a Future Made in Australia. And Labor has a plan to do just that. It is a part of our plan for a better future, making sure that we make things here, we create the jobs here, we give people the skills here with our fee-free TAFE plan, and our additional university plan for 20,000 places. It's a part of our coherent plan to move forward to have stronger economic growth, to have an economy that works for Australians rather than the other way around. And that is why this is so important. This is very different from the approach of the current Government. We saw that in recent times where the Prime Minister flew into Queensland to say it would be part of a national emergency. And then the next day, he changed his mind. The next day, apparently, it wasn't a national emergency, even though, of course, the catastrophic circumstances had occurred a week beforehand with very little response from this Government. We need a Government that is as strong and as resilient as the Australian people are themselves. One that wants to make things here, one that wants to advance our national interest and support businesses like Mike's, who's doing an incredible effort right here. It's a pretty good company that's exporting to military around the world, as well as to Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. It says it all about the benefits of this amazing product that is the world's best. Just like we have the world's fastest EV charging stations produced right here in Southeast Queensland. We can do so much better. And that's why our plan as well has identified the incredible job benefits from the shift to renewable energy, with five out of six of the 640,000 additional jobs being created in regional Australia, but 604,000 jobs of which Queensland would be a major beneficiary. I might ask Ed to say a few words.
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION: Thanks, Anthony, Ali, and also to Anthony. And if I can say to Mick, thank you so much for what you are doing here. As we were joking before, a 20-year overnight success story. That is 20 years of hard slog to make sure that they build this company from the ground up, believe in its success, provide jobs, and importantly, also huge export opportunities. And so many companies like Mick's, that want to, in Australia, make sure they do as much onshore as they can, create as many jobs as they can, do the right thing by fellow Australians, and they don't want to be lured off overseas because they can't get the funds or support to do so. So, when you see companies like Mick's, you've got to be able to cheer on what they're doing. But more importantly than that, put in the policies that make firms like this more of a reality in the Australian context. So, from our point of view, dealing with the capital side, making sure the funds are there. That's why we've got the National Reconstruction Fund that we've proposed, making sure that the skills, because so many firms tell me when I visit them, that skill shortages are massive issue for them. Under the Labor's TAFE fee-free plan, nearly 465,000 places created to make sure we got the skills for industry when they need them. And also, when governments are purchasing goods and services, that they think about local industry and how to work with them, providing a platform for them, not only to be able to sell their goods and services to government and make sure that dollars are coming through the door to keep firms healthy here, but on top of that, reducing their cost of capital, making it easier for those businesses to work. And Labor's vision is very clear. We want to see existing firms grow, new firms emerge, jobs created, a healthy economy, healthy community. All that in terms of what we've put together. Very keen to see that happen as soon as possible. But you contrast it to a tired, lazy Government that has had all this time to get this moving. And what really gets me going is seeing them announce, for example, a $1.5 billion plan to boost manufacturing, which pretty much replicates what we had in the last Labor Government that they tore once they came into office. They put it into place. And nearly two years after having that in, only have put out the door around $85 million. That is what we found in Estimates recently. And now, all of a sudden, we are finding these big job announcements and these big announcements by the Morrison Government that just happened to coincide with an election a few weeks away. So, what I want people to realise, just remember if they may, that this Government pushes all these companies, gives them four weeks to apply for these funds, waits nearly half a year to announce it. And when this Government thinks of jobs, it's not thinking about getting new jobs created as soon as possible, rebuilding the economy after a pandemic that puts huge pressure on it. The only jobs that the Morrison Government's thinking of is not new jobs in industry, but their own jobs. That's why you're seeing a sudden flurry of announcements. We think Australian industry, Australian workers, the economy, the community, deserve better than a tired, lazy Government only interested in itself, never there when they are needed, only there when they can help themselves. We can and must do better.
MIKE ARIENI, SOLAR BOLLARD LIGHTING: I just like to thank Mr Albanese, Ali France and Shadow Ministers for being here today. I actually envied the guys. They're not perspiring like me. Okay? So, not only what we do is in Australia-made manufacturer make a difference, but our product is about climate change. We need to reduce the temperature. Because I'm dying myself. Look at me. I'm sitting here perspiring. Seriously, have a look. Great front page image. So, Australian manufacturing to me is very, very important. Australian-made is very important. How many countries overseas that contact me and say, 'We want to buy your product because it's Australian-made, we know what's quality'. And I won't use any expletives. Okay? So, underpinning our economy with our primary industry, our manufacturing sector has disappeared over so many years. Resources, mining, minerals, hey, they were there, they helped us through GFC, right? We've had that support there. But now, we need to get back to basics. We need to build this manufacturing sector back up in Australia. We need to become self-sufficient. And that's what we're doing. And that's why I appreciate them being here today, supporting Australian-made and supporting us small SMEs. We're a boutique manufacturer. We're not massive. We're not a multinational. But we're the guys out there slogging away every day making a difference. Thank you for being here today.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much. There's your front-page photo. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Labor has announced about $750 million in hyper-local funding for marginal seats. How is this different from the colour-coded spreadsheets you accuse the Government of doing?
ALBANESE: For a start, that's nonsense. I had a look at the details in the Herald today. They've included major road projects in areas of growth in otter Melbourne. That's not hyper-local. It's about people getting around. On that basis, the funding that was provided by me in the Bruce Highway and the Gateway Motorway, the Pacific motorway here in Queensland, the Warrego Highway were all somehow local announcements. The truth is that we won't be lectured by a Government that has got out colour-coded spreadsheets, not for election commitments, for government programs. Government programs that only Government members and candidates for the LNP are invited to apply for. That's why you had $65 million of commuter car parks in Josh Frydenberg's own electorate approved that have now been abandoned. Because some of the commuter car parks were in places where there isn't actually a train station. There isn't actually a train station. Billions and billions of dollars wasted. Now, I make no apologies, for example, I noticed in one of the projects mentioned was one I announced in Townsville on Monday. It's in the electorate of Kennedy. The electorate of Kennedy. Now, we're pretty hopeful of winning every seat in Queensland. But I'll give you the big tip. Kennedy isn't at the top of the list of seats that will fall. That's where the $22 million project I announced for an industrial hub, taking advantage of clean, renewable energy to create jobs to stimulate private sector investment, which it will in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And we had companies, including Townsville Enterprise there at that announcement which we did in Townsville, rather than out in Kennedy, because that was a request from the media to do something at a more convenient location. So, some of this is just simply wrong. And a lot of it's just spin from Josh Frydenberg and from Simon Birmingham, who know that what they've got up to is shonky, who know that there are projects that are being funded, not on the basis of merit, whether it be regional sports grants for North Sydney Pool right next to Kirribilli House, or whether it be sporting grants for women's sports where there aren't women's sporting teams. So, another project that was mentioned, Henson Park, I made that announcement on Saturday. That was a joint announcement with the AFL and the local council. Because Sydney Swans are going to have an AFL women's team next year. They need women's change rooms. That's what the funding is primarily for, that upgrade at a local ground in Henson Park. A good project to advance and support women's participation in team sport. So, the idea that there's a parallel here is, quite frankly, absurd. And it just shows how desperate this Government is, having pork barrelled for nine years, no serious plan to provide appropriate support. They've been caught out time and time again by the National Audit Office.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Some of these announcements, particularly those, haven't had media releases attached to them. I guess you can't be accused of governing by press release if you don't have a press release attached to it.
ALBANESE: Flynn is held by the LNP by a considerable margin at this point in time.
JOURNALIST: But it is a target seat.
ALBANESE: Every seat is a target seat. I want to represent all Australians. All Australians. And I make no apologies for the fact that I want to represent all Australians. And the Labor Party does. And part of what we have to do is to step into the void for things like women's sporting activity, because this Government, even though it had a fund purpose-built for it, hasn't actually used those fundings appropriately. This is a Government that rorted Community Safety Grants. What sort of Government, and that's why Ali France should be the Member for Dickon, not the bloke who, on Community Safety Grants, sat down and said, 'Let's put a political flavour over this'. Even over things like lighting to protect communities which are vulnerable in areas that have been identified by authorities as being vulnerable.
JOURNALIST: Well, can we then expect funding in seats like Maranoa or in Wright?
ALBANESE: There has been a range of funding. Linda Burney last week was in Orange making announcements in the electorate of Calare. That's where she was. I just gave you an example that on Monday, a $22 million announcement I made, which is in the electorate of Kennedy.
JOURNALIST: There are reports in The Australian today about the treatment of Kimberley Kitching and called it a ‘mean girl culture’. Are those claims true?
ALBANESE: I find it astonishing that in 2022, I get a question using the term ‘mean girls’. I find that extraordinarily disrespectful to describe strong, articulate, principled women like Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally. I find it astonishing and a throwback. Decades. Decades. And when I saw that headline this morning, I just thought it was disrespectful to them. It's also disrespectful to Kimberley Kitching as a colleague. The Labor Party family are mourning Kimberley Kitching's loss. It was a tragic loss. It was sudden. It was not expected. Her funeral isn't till Monday. Can people be a bit respectful at this point in time?
JOURNALIST: I understand these are sensitive topics. And of course, we want to be respectful. But why was Kimberley Kitching's pre-election held up?
ALBANESE: Well, that's not respectful. It's just not. And people, it is up to people to ask whatever question they want. But we've been through a process whereby there's been various legal battles and challenges to the National Executive and the role in preselections in Victoria. Because Senate preselections are not one off, it's a proportional representation ballot when they occur, then it is not alone. There are a few seats that are outstanding in various places where we don't yet have candidates. But there has been an ongoing issue of legal action and then an appeal against that legal action at substantial cost. It's up to others to explain why that occurred.
JOURNALIST: Would you perhaps commit to looking into these questions, not right now, but in a few weeks?
ALBANESE: What questions?
JOURNALIST: The Australian is reporting about the mean girls’ culture.
ALBANESE: You again use the term. I find it astonishing, frankly.
JOURNALIST: It's not us using that language.
ALBANESE: Well, I think the idea, put it this way, there is Albanese, Husic and Chisholm here. We've never been described as ‘mean boys’. Simple as that. We have never been described as ‘mean boys’, and people should think about that.
JOURNALIST: In 2017, you said you would never allow a colleague to be isolated and do nothing about it. Was Senator Kitching failed?
ALBANESE: Seriously, have a bit of respect. The funeral is on Monday. And I'm not going to comment on anything other than that Kimberley Kitching is someone who I had respect for, someone who I - no-one else - the one decision I have that doesn't go to Caucus is the appointment of Assistant Shadow Ministers. I appointed Kimberley Kitching as an Assistant Shadow Minister. She remained there. I read, for example, for one comment, that somehow that was a demotion in terms of her allocation. I allocated her as the Assistant Shadow Minister to Bill Shorten with the same portfolio of Disabilities and Government Services, because those areas, on Robodebt, etc, we have a Royal Commission that we've announced, the issue of disability services is a big portfolio. She'd worked closely with Bill. And I thought that was entirely appropriate. But Kimberley Kitching – it's a great shock and a great loss. And what it shouldn't be is an opportunity for people to speculate based upon I'm not quite sure what.
JOURNALIST: If the US imposes any sanctions on China for helping Russia in any way, would you support Australia imposing sanctions as well?
ALBANESE: I support Australia acting in conjunction with our partners in the world. That's what we've done up to now. We've provided bipartisan support for that. It's important that democracies around the world take action. But I make this point. China has a responsibility to call out Russia's behaviour and its aggression. It's outrageous. It's against international law. And it should be called out by all countries, including China, which has a particular responsibility due to its closeness to Russia and also because it's a member of the P5, the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
JOURNALIST: The PM has been criticised this week for the weather event we just had. Would you agree?
ALBANESE: Well, this Prime Minister never prepares for anything, because he waits for events and then what he does is try and work out a political response. Even after the event occurred, why is it that it was only declared a national emergency a week after the peak of the crisis had occurred? Why is it that he visited Lismore, closed off streets so locals couldn't get anywhere near the Prime Minister or his entourage, then made a decision that additional support would go to the local government areas that were in the electorate of Page, but no extra support for people who live in Ballina, in Murwillumbah, in Mullumbimby, and these towns that were affected, or here in Queensland? We have communities that have been devastated. I visited South Murwillumbah. It looks just like Lismore. Devastation. I visited streets and businesses where every house and every business has gone under. Devastation as you go round. Cars that have been flooded and that will never be driven again. And the fact that you still have, days later, consideration of more support. What is needed is support for all those who are vulnerable at this time. This Prime Minister is always too little and too late in his response. And he always acts based upon the politics of a situation rather than just doing his job and helping people.
JOURNALIST: On the cost of living, the New Zealand Prime Minister has reduced fuel excise by 25 cents for three months. Should that happen in Australia?
ALBANESE: We know cost of living pressures have not just arrived. They've been there for some time. And they arise when wages aren’t keeping up with the price of petrol, the price of groceries, the price of rent. And what we're seeing is that has occurred over a period of time. And the Government has been complacent. Too busy out there in denial about the rise of insecure work, in denial about rising grocery prices, in denial about petrol prices increasing that were approaching $2 a litre before the Russian aggression and outrageous invasion of Ukraine. So, these have occurred over a long period of time. Labor has put forward practical plans for Cheaper Child Care dismissed by the Government and nonsense made-up fairy-tales based upon assessments about what the cost of that will be to the economy, rather than looking at what we've said and how it will help families with kids to get by as well as increasing workforce participation. The area of electric vehicles, where we want to reduce the taxes on electric vehicles and make them cheaper. Most significantly, we have a plan for wages. We'll make wage theft a crime. We'll have same job, same pay. We'll have secure work as one of the objectives of the Fair Work Commission. We'll take action to allow the Fair Work Commission to consider people in the gig economy who are falling behind. Why is it that this Government, even in aged care, we've heard of people working multiple jobs just to get by, and that has consequences for the health of the residents they look after. We need to examine all of these issues. Cost of living pressures won't be dealt with by this Government, because this Government declared, with Mathias Cormann, then the Senate Leader, saying that reduced or low wages, stopping downward pressure on wages, was a key part of the economic architecture. That is what they want. Which is why they've been so determined to increase insecure work over the last nine years.
JOURNALIST: I know we've got electric cars, but they're 12 or 18 months away on waiting lists.
ALBANESE: There's a range of measures that could be looked at in terms of cost of living. We'll wait and see. We're not the Government now so we can't - and the Government seems determined to not have an election. If they're having an election and we were putting together a budget, after an election, or they were putting one together if they were re-elected, then you'd have a real debate. But having declared that we're in an election campaign and that he was campaigning and not governing last October, he's continued to run around and campaign rather than actually govern. We'll wait and see what they do in their so-called Budget that is really just an election splurge. We'll wait and see. And we'll have a couple of days for our response. But we'll also have a campaign to respond in.
JOURNALIST: Don’t voters deserve to know what you'll do for the immediate relief of cost of living pressures?
ALBANESE: You bet they do. I outlined it. Child care, reductions in taxes, increases in wages, dealing with cost of living pressures. Added to that, the Housing Australia Future Fund to put downward pressure on housing costs by having an increase in supply of social and affordable housing. We have all of those measures out there for all to see. But in terms of immediate, we can’t do something right now because we're not the Government right now. What we would do is put forward - and before the election, there'll be a range of other commitments and promises that we will make out there - but the Government will hand down its Budget, so-called, on March 29. And we'll wait and see how they respond to these issues. We know that they've got $16 billion in decisions taken by not announced. How about they use some of that to assist people who have been impacted by the floods? How about they use some of that to impact on lowering people's cost of living? But you won't see that. What you'll see like we're seeing today with the announcement from the Prime Minister in WA, as Ed said, announcements that are based upon just saving one job – his own. That is Scott Morrison's priority. He's concerned about his job. He's not concerned about yours.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister being on the ground over there will help or hurt him in the election?
ALBANESE: Look, I'm not a commentator. My job is to put forward both a critique of the current Government that we know is tired, that we know is out of touch, and we know has no new ideas going forward. So, it's not surprising that people are having a look at this Government and asking themselves, ‘Is this as good as it gets? Is this Government going to get better in its second decade?’ Because in its first decade when they began, they had Mathias Cormann, they had Julie Bishop, they had Michael Keenan, they had Christian Porter come in. They had a range of senior members in the Liberal Party from WA. Today, they don't have that. They have a Prime Minister who is on a very rare visit to WA. And West Australians know that I've been a regular visitor there, when allowed to by the provisions. I've been a visitor there for many years and have a proud record of delivering in the West.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has criticised your weight loss and your appearance. What is your response to those comments?
ALBANESE: I'm somewhat surprised that he thinks that that is legitimate criticism. I make no apologies, and indeed, I'm proud of the fact that I've got myself match-fit. I've got myself match-fit because this is a tough job that I'm running for. And this morning, I was up early. I did the Today Show from Sydney. Flown up here. And I have another electorate I'm visiting after. Then I'll be at the St Patrick's Day or the pre-St Patrick's Day dinner tonight. And tomorrow I'll be in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide with Peter Malinauskas. It helps if you're fit. I'm fit. And I'm fitter than I've been for a long period of time. I think that's something I'm proud of. And if the Prime Minister thinks that's a reason to be critical of me, well, that's a matter for his judgement. I had a car accident in January last year. When a Range Rover is heading for a head-on collision with you, I assure you, it's a life-changing experience. And it was. I had tried to some weight before then, and had indeed. But that made me very, very determined to live a healthier life. And I think it's not a bad thing for people who are over the age of 50 to lead a healthy life. And I hope that, in public life, one of the things that we seek to do, as well, is to provide good examples to people. I still enjoy a beer. I still enjoy a range of food. But I'm careful about my diet. And I squeeze in exercise whenever I can. And I think that's a good thing. And it's up to the Prime Minister to explain, really, why he thinks that's a bad thing. Thanks very much.
334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204
Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Parliament House Office
PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562
Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204
Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Parliament House Office
PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562
Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the sorrow of the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also recognise the resilience, strength and pride of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Authorised by Anthony Albanese. 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204.